Yeager v. Forbes, No. 02-167.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtHILL, Chief Justice.
Citation78 P.3d 241,2003 WY 134
PartiesJohn YEAGER, Lawrence A. Durante, John Reilly, and George Rogers, Appellants (Defendants/Counter Claimants), v. Waldo E. FORBES, William C. Forbes, Sarah P. Forbes and Edith L. Forbes, as Trustees of the Beckton Trust, and Waldo E. Forbes and William C. Forbes As Trustees of the Hillside Street Trust, Appellees (Plaintiffs).
Decision Date24 October 2003
Docket NumberNo. 02-167.

78 P.3d 241
2003 WY 134

John YEAGER, Lawrence A. Durante, John Reilly, and George Rogers, Appellants (Defendants/Counter Claimants),
v.
Waldo E. FORBES, William C. Forbes, Sarah P. Forbes and Edith L. Forbes, as Trustees of the Beckton Trust, and Waldo E. Forbes and William C. Forbes As Trustees of the Hillside Street Trust, Appellees (Plaintiffs)

No. 02-167.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

October 24, 2003.


78 P.3d 243
Representing Appellants: Timothy C. Kingston of Graves, Miller & Kingston, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming

Representing Appellees: Tom C. Toner of Yonkee & Toner, LLP, Sheridan, Wyoming.

Before HILL, C.J., and GOLDEN, LEHMAN, KITE, and VOIGT, JJ.

HILL, Chief Justice.

[¶ 1] This is a dispute over public access along the Soldier Creek Trail or Toll Road (the Trail) that crosses private land abutting the Big Horn National Forest in Sheridan County. John Yeager, Lawrence A. Durante, John Reilly, and George Rogers (collectively the Defendants) appeal a summary judgment granted by the district court permanently enjoining them from entering upon or traveling across lands owned by Waldo E. Forbes, William C. Forbes, Sarah P. Forbes, and Edith L. Forbes, as Trustees of the Beckton Trust, and Waldo E. Forbes and William C. Forbes as Trustees of the Hillside Street Trust (collectively the Forbeses). The Defendants also appeal a summary judgment order of the district court denying a Motion to Intervene filed by the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Raymond Hutson, Dan Biebel, Fred Kusel, and Dan Reinke (collectively interveners).

[¶ 2] Initially, we conclude that the Defendants have not timely appealed the district court's decision on the Motion to Intervene. We also find that the Trail is not a public road under Wyoming law and that the Defendants have not alleged facts sufficient to support a claim for a private or public prescriptive easement. Therefore, we affirm the summary judgment.

ISSUES

[¶ 3] The Defendants set forth three issues for review:

1. Is the Soldier Creek Toll Road or Soldier Creek Trail a public road or trail pursuant to 43 U.S.C. § 932?

2. Do the [Defendants] and the general public enjoy a prescriptive easement right in the use of the Soldier Creek Toll Road or Trail?

3. Should the proposed interveners have been allowed to intervene in the case?

The Forbeses respond with a list of seven issues:

1. Where the Board of County Commissioners never determined that the Soldier Creek Trail was necessary or important for public use and did not officially record the Soldier Creek Trail as a public road by January 1, 1924, as required by 1919 Session Laws, ch. 112 and 1921 Session Laws, ch. 100, did the District Court correctly determine that the Soldier Creek Trail is not a public road?

2. Did the District Court correctly determine that there was no public prescriptive easement over the Soldier Creek Trail?

3. Did the District Court correctly determine that the Defendants had no private prescriptive easement over the Soldier Creek Trail?

4. Did the District Court correctly refuse to grant Defendants' motion to determine that the Soldier Creek Trail was a public road as a matter of law?

5. Was the notice of appeal of the order denying intervention timely filed?

6. Do the Defendants have standing to appeal from an order denying a motion to intervene filed by a third party?

7. Did the District Court properly deny the Intervenor's [sic] motion to intervene as of right under Wyo. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2)?

FACTS

[¶ 4] Many of the facts underlying this case are the subject of dispute between the parties, especially those relating to the establishment and historical use of the Trail. Our view of the evidence on appeal is determined by the procedural status of the case:

78 P.3d 244
Summary judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue as to any material fact exists and the prevailing party is entitled to have a judgment as a matter of law. A genuine issue of material fact exists when a disputed fact, if it were proven, would have the effect of establishing or refuting an essential element of the cause of action or defense which has been asserted by the parties. We examine the record from the vantage point most favorable to the party who opposed the motion, and we give that party the benefit of all favorable inferences which may fairly be drawn from the record. We evaluate the propriety of a summary judgment by employing the same standards and by using the same materials as were employed and used by the lower court. We do not accord any deference to the district court's decisions on issues of law.

Matlack v. Mountain West Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, 2002 WY 60, ¶ 6, 44 P.3d 73, ¶ 6 (Wyo.2002) (quoting Baker v. Pena, 2001 WY 122, ¶ 6, 36 P.3d 602, ¶ 6 (Wyo.2001) (citations omitted)).

[¶ 5] The Forbeses' ranch contains lands in Sections 22, 29, 30, and 31 of Township 55 North, Range 86 West, 6th P.M., Sheridan County, Wyoming. The parcels of land were added to the Forbeses' ranch over time through patenting by their ancestors or through purchase from other parties between 1903 and 1939. The Soldier Creek Trail or Toll Road provides access to the Big Horn National Forest and adjacent state trust lands. It begins at the western terminus of the Beckton Big Horn Mountain Road (County Road No. 52 also commonly referred to as the P K Lane). The Trail begins on property owned by the Forbeses at the western terminus of the P K Lane and winds across state land and crosses back onto the Forbeses' property before it enters the Big Horn National Forest.

[¶ 6] While there is a serious dispute between the parties as to whether or not the Trail existed prior to the Forbeses' homestead of the land, there is some evidence suggesting that The Sheridan, Bald Mountain and Big Horn Basin Toll Road Company may have constructed the Trail in 1891 or 1892 to provide miners access to the Big Horn Mountains. According to the Defendants' affidavits, the public has used the Trail since its inception. The use of the Trail has ranged from running of cattle to state grazing lands at Walker Prairie since the early 1900's to outfitters and guides taking hunters into the Big Horn National Forest. The individual Defendants also set forth their own use of the Trail. John Yeager has used it to take clients to hunting camps in the Big Horn National Forest as a licensed outfitter since the late 1970's. George Rogers has used the Trail personally and as a licensed outfitter and guide since 1981. Larry Durante and John Reilly have used the Trail for personal enjoyment since 1990 and 1981 respectively.

[¶ 7] Historically, the Forbeses have maintained signs along the Trail. While there is a dispute between the parties as to when the signs were originally put up, the Defendants acknowledged in their depositions that they have been in place since at least the early 1980's. The signs informed users that they had permission to use the Trail to access the Big Horn National Forest and if they desired to use the Trail for any other purpose, they had to obtain prior permission from the Forbeses. There were also signs prohibiting hunting on the Forbeses' property.

[¶ 8] In 2001, the Forbeses apparently became exasperated with gates being left open along the Trail, interfering with their ranching operations. Accordingly, the Forbeses rerouted the Trail at its eastern terminus at the end of the P K Lane. A new sign was erected informing the public that they could use the new route at their discretion, but that if they desired to use the old route, they had to call in advance for permission. The Defendants disputed the right to alter the Trail because they believed that it was a public road. At least two of the Defendants were cited for trespassing for using the old route without obtaining the prior permission from the Forbeses.

[¶ 9] On November 6, 2001, The Board of County Commissioners of Sheridan County held a public meeting. One of the items on the agenda was the dispute over the public or

78 P.3d 245
private nature of the Trail. The Board's minutes describe the consideration given to the issue
The Board now addressed a request from Cam and Spike Forbes regarding clarification on the Soldier Creek Toll Road. Chairman Brad Waters addressed the public, and read the following statement, which was prepared by the County Attorney, Matt Redle. "1) Interested parties have indicated their belief that the trail crossing the Forbes' property is a public road. Some have suggested that the trail lies along the route of the Soldier Creek Toll Road established by the Soldier Creek Toll Road Company in 1889 pursuant to Wyo.Rev.Stat. § 525 (1887). 2) A review of pertinent records of Sheridan County fails to show that Sheridan County ever established the trail in question as a county road pursuant to applicable Wyoming statute. 3) In 1907 Sheridan County did establish the Beckton-Big Horn Mountain Road (now known at "PK Lane") as a county road. It has been suggested by interested parties that the Beckton-Big Horn Mountain Road overlies the lower portion of the Soldier Creek Toll Road. 4) A review of pertinent records of Sheridan County fails to disclose that the County ever claimed the portion of the trail under dispute. Neither do those records disclose that the County has ever expended any funds for construction, maintenance or other improvement to the trail in dispute. 5) This does not necessarily resolve the issue of whether the trail in question is a public thoroughfare. Neither is it within the jurisdiction of this Board to determine the rights, if any, of the Forbes' or interested members of the public to the use of the trail. Jurisdiction to determine the property rights of the interested parties lies with the courts." Attorney Charles E. Graves, representing the "Citizens for Public Access" handed out a letter and addressed the Board at this time, Mr. Graves stated that he agreed with the statement prepared by the County Attorney and
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23 practice notes
  • Hede v. Gilstrap, No. 04-22.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 28, 2005
    ...2001 WY 86, ¶ 11, 31 P.3d at 1247. We accord no deference to the district court's conclusions on questions of law. Yeager v. Forbes, 2003 WY 134, ¶ 12, 78 P.3d 241, 246 Board of County Com'rs of County of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne, 2004 WY 16, ¶¶ 7-8, 85 P.3d 999, 1002 (Wyo.2004). [¶ 6] B......
  • Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Bureau of Land Management, No. 04-4071 (Fed. 10th Cir. 1/6/2006), No. 04-4071
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • January 6, 2006
    ...been held sufficient" to constitute acceptance of an R.S. 2477 right of way.), superseded by statute as noted in Yeager v. Forbes, 78 P.3d 241, 255 (Wyo. 2003); Van Wanning v. Deeter, 110 N.W. 703, 704 (Neb. 1907) ("[T]he acceptance of the congressional grant could be shown, not only by act......
  • So. Utah Wilderness v. Bureau of Land Management, No. 04-4071.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • October 12, 2005
    ...been held sufficient" to constitute acceptance of an R.S. 2477 right of way.), superseded by statute as noted in Yeager v. Forbes, 78 P.3d 241, 255 (Wyo.2003); Van Wanning v. Deeter, 78 Neb. 282, 110 N.W. 703, 704 (1907) ("[T]he acceptance of the congressional grant could be shown, not only......
  • McIntyre v. BOARD OF COUNTY COM'RS, No. 02SC803.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • March 15, 2004
    ...construction and maintenance of a highway for statutory period of time constituted a public highway by prescription). Yeager v. Forbes, 78 P.3d 241, 256 (Wyo.2003) (claimants must "bring home" notice of adverse claim to Board of Comm'rs v. Patrick, 18 Wyo. 130, 107 P. 748 (1910) (public aut......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
23 cases
  • Hede v. Gilstrap, No. 04-22.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 28, 2005
    ...2001 WY 86, ¶ 11, 31 P.3d at 1247. We accord no deference to the district court's conclusions on questions of law. Yeager v. Forbes, 2003 WY 134, ¶ 12, 78 P.3d 241, 246 Board of County Com'rs of County of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne, 2004 WY 16, ¶¶ 7-8, 85 P.3d 999, 1002 (Wyo.2004). [¶ 6] B......
  • Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Bureau of Land Management, No. 04-4071 (Fed. 10th Cir. 1/6/2006), No. 04-4071
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • January 6, 2006
    ...been held sufficient" to constitute acceptance of an R.S. 2477 right of way.), superseded by statute as noted in Yeager v. Forbes, 78 P.3d 241, 255 (Wyo. 2003); Van Wanning v. Deeter, 110 N.W. 703, 704 (Neb. 1907) ("[T]he acceptance of the congressional grant could be shown, not only by act......
  • So. Utah Wilderness v. Bureau of Land Management, No. 04-4071.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • October 12, 2005
    ...been held sufficient" to constitute acceptance of an R.S. 2477 right of way.), superseded by statute as noted in Yeager v. Forbes, 78 P.3d 241, 255 (Wyo.2003); Van Wanning v. Deeter, 78 Neb. 282, 110 N.W. 703, 704 (1907) ("[T]he acceptance of the congressional grant could be shown, not only......
  • McIntyre v. BOARD OF COUNTY COM'RS, No. 02SC803.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • March 15, 2004
    ...construction and maintenance of a highway for statutory period of time constituted a public highway by prescription). Yeager v. Forbes, 78 P.3d 241, 256 (Wyo.2003) (claimants must "bring home" notice of adverse claim to Board of Comm'rs v. Patrick, 18 Wyo. 130, 107 P. 748 (1910) (public aut......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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